As many of you know I am a big fan of the finer SET amps and of speakers that do not use crossovers. These two facts, along with the fact that the Turning Point Audio SD-X2s are 94 dB efficient, makes them immediately a speaker that I am interested in. So, it was with great anticipation that I unpacked the well packed SD-X2 speakers. By the way, one look at the cabinets tells you that Bob Ziegler’s reputation as a wood worker is very well deserved.
Low-powered SET amps used with high-efficiency speakers still aren’t mainstream, but I think most audiophiles who hear a really good system based on this combination come away amazed. (A recent Dagogo Poll result shows that 18% of participants use single-driver speakers as their reference. –Ed.) It is safe to say that even here in America where “bigger is better”, there has developed quite a market for low-powered amps and high-efficiency speakers. Today, there are lots of choices in low-powered amplifiers from the new, inexpensive chip-based amps all the way to 1.5- to 10-watt amps from Japan that cost over six figures. Then, there are plenty of wonderful low-powered amps in between.
Bob Ziegler’s audio story is very interesting one, he is the man who has built sound diffusers for the HBO studios in New York City. Also, well known songwriters and producers such as Academy Award and Golden Globe Award winner John Denicola, use his speakers. For Bob Ziegler though, it all started way back in 9th grade shop class. He says, “I was the worst student my first-year teacher had, but after school the shop teacher used the equipment to build his own pair of cabinets for his Altec Lansing A7s.” Bob says, “from that moment on I was hooked, on both woodworking and building speakers.” He built several pair during his teen years, including some of his own designs.
It was his woodworking skills and ability to build custom furniture that turned out to be what people noticed. He began building custom entertainment centers for a retail store in Phoenix, Arizona. Still in Bob’s spare time, he kept building and refining his speakers. He even built some of his designs into the entertainment centers.
In 1999, after building one of Steve Deckert’s sub designs that he found on Decware.com, Bob and Steve began a business relationship which still continues. Some of the Decware designs were Steve Deckert’s and some were Bob’s. Bob’s previous business endeavor was Ziegler Audio Technologies, a sister company of High Fidelity Engineering which is the mother company of Decware. Turning Point Audio had two new speakers. One is a dual single-driver system called the SD-X2, and the other one is a hybrid omni design called the HR-1. Both of these are Bob’s own design and are being manufactured under Turning Point Audio.
The SD-X2 is a very interesting speaker. It’s not the usual single-driver speaker; it is a dual single-driver design with two modified 6 1/2″ Fostex drivers. The drivers by the way are not modified identically. They are loaded in a very heavy cabinet in a passive Transmission Line configuration. Like a true single-driver speaker it has no crossover. The SD-X2 has a rated frequency response of 40 to 20,000 Hz and is stated to be 97 dB efficient. The speaker is nominally a 4 ohm speaker which is a bit unusual for a high efficiency speaker that is likely to be used with SET amps. The build quality is very nice looking and the speakers have an extremely solid feel.
I found it interesting that the Fostex drivers break in almost just the opposite from my Lowthers. Lowthers start out bright, thin, and forward, while the Fostex drivers started out sounding tight, a little small, and kind of overly polite.
I used the Turning Point Audio SD-X2 speakers in both my all-vinyl reference system and in my second system upstairs, which is a digital sourced system using the Peachtree Audio Decco 2 integrated amp with built-in DAC. (See Douglas Schroeder’s Audio Blast commentary. –Ed.) I also used the speakers with the Electrocompaniet AW 2X120 amp. Positioning the SD-X2s was fairly simple. They just need to be well out from the walls, and in my room, toed-in so that the two imaginary lines cross right behind your head. I also found they sounded best if I set about three feet further back than you would if you were using an equilateral triangle setup.
The tonal balance of the Turning Point Audio SD-X2s reminds me of the BBC LS3/5a speakers, and I mean that as a compliment. For while the LS3/5a may not have had the most extended frequency response, I never heard a pair that didn’t sound musical. By the way, listening to music is why we have speaker anyway, isn’t it?
Truth is, the SD-X2 sounded nice with most everything I played on them, and that’s true even though they are not the most transparent I have ever heard. Now, don’t get me wrong, they are more transparent than most speakers, but they are a little warmer in the mid-bass than the speakers I have been listening to for the last few years. When you take into consideration their price and size, this seems like a small sacrifice and one that, to be honest, many people will count as a blessing and not a sacrifice.
I always like to start by describing the area where a product performs best. Maybe the best way to talk about the sound of their midrange is to think about the midrange of a few other great speakers. The Quad ESL 57, the Ikonoklast Model 3, the Auditorium 23 SoloVox single-driver speaker, and the Teresonic single-driver speakers all have that great midrange magic. Still, there are significant differences in midrange between all these speakers. The Quad ESL 57 and the Ikonoklast are both slightly more laid back and maybe a little more refined-sounding than either of the Teresonic or SoloVox speakers. In contrast, the two single-driver speakers I’ve mentioned have a raw aliveness to them that the other two do not have, and I find it absolutely intoxicating.
The SD-X2 has a wonderful midrange, yet falls into neither of the two camps I mentioned above. The midrange is not quite as open or transparent, but is very warm and natural sounding. Male vocals sound robust and female vocals sound smooth and warm. When listening to Alison Krauss, the speaker’s ability to let you hear the harmony and the interplay of the voices was just beautiful. You can also very clearly hear both the brushes and the sticks as they come in contact with cymbals and drums; they sound so correct and beautiful. On the other hand, the sound of the Turning Point Audio is not as big and powerful as my reference speakers.
The top-end of the SD-X2 was smooth and never too bright or edgy. The bass is where this speaker reminded me most of the BBC LS3/5a speakers. Very listenable, voiced where they sound like they have more bass than they actually produce. I think the only single problem is that this speaker, being a floor stander of some size, leads the listener to expect more bass from it.
The Turning Point Audio SD-X2 work well with low-powered SETs, but at their price there are lots of speakers to be considered nonetheless. If you have a low-powered SET and like a warm sounding speaker, I suggest you put these on your list to consider.
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